Following smash hit productions in Australia, London and Toronto, PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT THE MUSICAL began previews on Broadway on February 28 and opened on March 20th. PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT THE MUSICAL stars Tony AwardÂ® nominee Will Swenson, Olivier Award nominee Tony Sheldon and Nick Adams as the trio of friends on a heart-warming, uplifting road trip of a lifetime who hop aboard a battered old bus searching for love and friendship in the middle of the Australian outback and end up finding more than they could ever have dreamed.
Were the reviews all that the show dreamed of as well? Let’s find out!
Charles Isherwood, The New York Times: The most rewarding role belongs to Mr. Sheldon, who brings an authentic note of dignifiEd Grace to his performance as Bernadette. His mothering of both the troubled Tick and the potentially self-destructive Felicia feels honest, and Mr. Sheldon has a way of inflecting the book’s litter of catty zingers with refined nuances that make them feel smarter and fresher than they probably are. But any flickers of warmth and true human feeling in “Priscilla” are either obscured by another onslaught of gyrating dancers or squashed flat by a giant platform heel. After a while even the festive parade of outlandish costumes, among the show’s more reliably entertaining diversions, begin to feel stale and overworked. At the extended curtain call – aptly set to the catchy ’90s dance floor anthem entitled “Finally” – you are likely to feel slightly dazed and stultified, as if you’d been conked on the head with a disco ball.
David Rooney, Reuters/Hollywood Reporter: What “Mamma Mia!” did for Abba, director Simon Phillips’ stage adaptation of the 1994 Australian road movie does for a foot-tapping mega-mix that lifts primarily from ’70s disco and ’80s pop. There’s A LOT going on. While much of it is gaudy, fabulous and funny, it’s not until act two that the aggressively high-energy musical calms down enough to allow emotional investment in its characters. This comes largely via the anchoring presence of Sheldon’s divine Bernadette. She’s soft and vulnerable one minute, maternal the next, yet always ready to dispense an acerbic put-down. Elegant and dignified, the Australian actor could pass for Cate Blanchett’s mother. Sheldon has been with the show since its earliest Sydney incarnation in 2006, which accounts for the deeply etched back-story he brings to the role.
Steven Suskin, Variety: Priscilla, a tricked-up tour bus with a shoe on the roof, rolls onto the stage of the Palace Theater to roars from the audience, and proceeds to turn, twist and light up pink and purple. And then does it again (and again and again). So goes the brashly good-natured Aussie musical to which the bus lends its name, “Priscilla Queen of the Desert,” which, born from Stephan Elliott‘s 1994 film, seems destined to follow the path of “Mamma Mia!” Inartful here, crass there, this rollicking crowdpleaser in sequins nonetheless packs enough heart to leave the masses enthralled.
Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg News: So what if Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott’s crude book, based on Elliott’s film “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” panders to a crowd that doesn’t need winning over? The first act works too hard and Will Swenson’s voice seems to be on the verge of going on strike. Nevertheless, he’s pretty winning as Tick; so is Nick Adams as Felicia. A cut above, for bringing tremendous heart to a predictable role, is Tony Sheldon as the touching Bernadette. Hats off too to C. David Johnson as lovable Bob, the man of Bernadette’s dreams. Bring your dancing shoes.
Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly: The nylon-thin plot is mostly an excuse to set up the classic tunes on the soundtrack. As fans of Glee know by now, there’s a certain pleasure in the truly unlikely segue. It’s natural for Tick to begin ‘Say a Little Prayer’ seated at the mirror: ‘The moment I wake up, before I put on my makeup…’ But you can imagine the narrative lengths to which the creators must go to introduce Jimmy Webb’s ‘MacArthur Park,’ which memorably begins: ‘Someone left the cake out in the rain.’ Needless to say, the show is campier than a tentful of Boy Scouts (working on their choreography merit badge). And there’s a dance-party atmosphere that helps compensate for the show’s plot implausibilities and clunkier moments. Among the three leads, Adams seems the most solid and comfortably over the top as a bratty young provocateur. Sheldon is not the strongest singer, but brings some touching pathos to his role as the aging diva. The weakest element is Swenson, who seems a bit ill at ease as Tick/Mitzi (and the actor’s shaky accent often seems closer to Eton than Australia).
Linda Winer, Newsday: ‘Priscilla’ gives a cheerful ride on stage
Howard Shapiro, Philadelphia Inquirer: Priscilla is so sound, so right, and after seeing it, I can’t imagine it any other way. Just give yourself over to its giddy theatrical turns. It is, after all, about acceptance.
Chris Jones, The Chicago Tribune: But “Priscilla” has a pulsing theatrical heart and soul, not least because its characters are inveterate creatures of the stage. As directed by Simon Phillips, who has been on this bus for years, the tone is warm and inclusive. “Priscilla” has a rich dynasty of queens, unfazed by any desert and very much at home on Broadway.
Matt Windman, AM New York: “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” is not so much a normal musical but rather a loud, oversized karaoke party and midnight drag show. You really want to have fun, but it is so aggressively campy that it soon becomes irritating and too much to stomach.